Cover Reveal: Falling for the Backup by Toni Aleo

Oh-lala!  I have a cover reveal for Toni Aleo’s Falling for the Backup!  This is an Assassins series novella, and it will be available June 24.  What do you think of it?

Falling for the Backup: An Assassins Series Novella by Toni Aleo

Loveswept – Random House |  June 24, 2013  |  $0.99

Toni Aleo’s sexy new eBook original novella featuring the Nashville Assassins will have you believing in the power of love at first sight . . . and second sight . . . and third.

After serving as a dutiful bridesmaid in the wedding from hell, Aynslee Shaw just wants to slink home to Nashville and forget the whole trip. That is until the hottest guy she’s ever seen is seated next to her on the flight and charms her with his easy laugh and killer smile. But just when she thinks things are getting good, he vanishes, leaving Aynslee wondering, was that guy the one? And did she just let him slip through her fingers?
Former superstar goalie Jordan Ryan is back on the ice—finally. After a crippling knee injury that had him wondering if he’d ever play pro hockey again, he’s got his full attention on rebuilding his career. So a pretty—okay, beautiful—girl on a plane shouldn’t be a distraction. But Jordan is very, very distracted. And when Aynslee crosses his path again, he’s not sure any job in the world is worth missing his second chance with a woman like her.

Pre-order Falling for the Backup

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Review: Game. Set. Match. by Jennifer Iacopelli

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Title:  Game. Set. Match.

Author:  Jennifer Iacopelli

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Nestled along the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks Tennis Academy is the world’s most elite training facility. In this pressure-cooker environment, futures are forged in blood and sweat, and dreams are shattered in an instant.

Penny Harrison, a rising female star, is determined to win the French Open and beat her archrival, Zina Lutrova. But when her coach imports British bad boy Alex Russell as her new training partner, will Penny be able to keep her laser-like focus?

Tennis is all Jasmine Randazzo has ever known. The daughter of two Grand Slam champions, she’s hell-bent on extending her family’s legacy and writing her own happily-ever-after…until her chosen Prince Charming gives her the just-friends speech, right before the biggest junior tournament of the year, the Outer Banks Classic.

With a powerful serve and killer forehand, newcomer Indiana Gaffney is turning heads. She’s thrilled by all of the attention, especially from Jack Harrison, Penny’s agent and hot older brother, except he keeps backing off every time things start heating up.

With so much at stake, dreams—and hearts—are bound to break.


Review:

Wow! Coliloquy does it again!  Here’s another book with lots of angst, set amid the ultra competitive world of tennis.  Here’s a secret; I can’t stand tennis, and yet I couldn’t put this book down!  The interpersonal relationships had me hooked.  Would Penny get over her fling with tennis bad boy Alex?  Would Jasmine live up to her parents’ legacy?  Would Indy ever fit in at OBX and make her dreams of being a top tennis player come true?  Will I get over the cruelty of those painful little words – THE END??

While I don’t enjoy tennis, I was drawn to this book because I love sports stories.  It doesn’t matter what the sport is, either.  As long as the protagonists are committed to training hard and being the best they can be, I’m onboard.  There is just something about a competitor refusing to be second best that keeps me engaged in their struggles.  I want to see them persevere, to overcome all obstacles in their path, and become the best they can be.  Throw in rivals, disinterested parents, interfering parents – in short, any emotionally distracting relationship, and I am that much more invested in the story.

Game. Set. Match. has three central characters, and the book is told in alternating POVs.  Penny has just won her first major tournament, defeating the world’s number one player.  She’s determined to win the French Open next, but she’s still having flashbacks to a disastrous competition where Alex Russell messed with her mind, her heart, and destroyed her game.  To her utter dismay, her coach has brought Alex to OBX to help her train.  Can she keep herself together and ignore the attraction raging between them? Can she ever trust him again?  I loved this story line, because Alex is such a player, yet he’s ready to make a commitment to Penny, if only she’ll give him the time of day.  There was a lot of great tension between Alex and Penny, as they both strove to train for their matches at the French Open.   Penny has so many pressures now that she’s finding success, from potential sponsors to rivals waiting in the wings to take her down a notch.  Great stuff here!

Jasmine is probably my least favorite character, because she came across as a spoiled princess.  Her parents were both tennis superstars, and since she was seven, all she’s wanted was to follow in their footsteps.  When Indy shows up at OBX and promptly derails her dreams and hopes for the future, she lashes out at her new tennis opponent.  Jasmine lost the mental game long before she even stepped out on the court.  She expected that success would just fall into her lap, without her truly working for it.  While I did like her better by the end of the book, it took a lot for her to win me over.

Indy gave up on tennis after her mother’s death.  After Penny wins the Madrid Open, her fire to play tennis is re-ignited.  She is surprised that her offer to attend OBX is still open, and jumps at the chance to train at the best tennis academy in the country.  I really liked Indy and found her story arc highly engrossing.  Still reeling from her mother’s death, she and her father have a distant relationship at best.  She’s never been as interesting to him as his work, and Indy has resented his indifference for years.  Now she’s facing the toughest competition of her life, and she’s learning the hard way that tennis is more about the mental game than she realized.  Her early success at OBX hasn’t earned her any friends among her classmates.  She’s surprised to discover how down to earth Penny is, and the two girls soon become close, which leads to more rivalries with the other girls at the academy.  Indy’s story was my favorite, and I thought that her romantic pursuit of Jack, Penny’s older brother, was very sweet.

Game. Set. Match is a great read with lots of emotion.  Even if you don’t usually enjoy sports stories, give this a try.  It’s more about relationships and chasing your dreams than tennis.

Grade:  B / B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Reveal! Blue Lines by Toni Aleo!

I’m excited to help with the cover reveal for Toni Aleo’s Blue Lines.  This is book 4 in Toni’s Assassins series.   What do you think?  While I love the guy’s back, I don’t think I’m over the moon about his jeans.  Would I like it better without them? Ummmm…yeah.  What do you think?

 

About the book:

Opposites do more than just attract in Toni Aleo’s latest Nashville Assassins novel about a very bad boy and the good girl he can’t resist.

The instant Piper Allen sees Erik Titov, she wants him—wants his rock-hard body, sure, but the strength and mystery that lie behind that superstar hockey jock demeanor, too. So when he sidles up to her at a bar and slinks his arm around her waist, she’s lost. What follows is the wildest night of her life . . . followed by inevitable heartbreak the next morning. And then, a few weeks later, a very big surprise: two blue lines on a pregnancy test.
Only a check to the head could make Erik fall for a nice girl like Piper. But since their crazy-sexy night together, he’s been trying to forget about her alluring body by falling into bed with every woman in Nashville, and it’s not working. So when Piper shows up at his house with a baby-bomb to drop, it doesn’t take much for Erik to suggest the nuclear option: marriage. While it’s supposed to be all for show, the second they say “I do,” the ice between them starts to melt into sizzling steam.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Taking Shots, Trying to Score, and Empty Net.

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Lines-Assassins-Contemporary-ebook/dp/B00BH0VTUW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1366653309&sr=1-1&keywords=Blue+Lines%3A+The+Assassins+Series+Toni+Aleo

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blue-lines-toni-aleo/1114852590?ean=9780345547330&itm=1&usri=9780345547330

iBookstore: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blue-lines-toni-aleo/1114852590?ean=9780345547330&itm=1&usri=9780345547330

Random House and other retailers: http://www.randomhouse.com/book/227840/blue-lines-the-assassins-series-by-toni-aleo

Review: Riding on Air by Maggie Gilbert

 

Title:  Riding on Air

Author: Maggie Gilbert

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

For readers of Jenny Downham, John Greene and Maureen McCarthy, a poignant young adult romance about following your dreams and realising what really matters.

What can you do when your own hands are the enemy? Hold on tight, for as long as it takes.

Melissa has secrets. Sure it’s pretty obvious she has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, but no one knows how bad it is or how many pills she takes for the pain. She’s determined to make her horse Jinx into a champion and she dreams that her childhood friend William will one day see her, rather than her condition.

So when William asks her out and Jinx is shortlisted for selection in an elite training program, it seems Melissa’s dreams have come true. But when her secrets are exposed, all those dreams come crashing down around her. Can William ever forgive her? And can she learn about letting go in time to truly ride on air when it matters most?


Review:

One guess why I wanted to read Riding on Air.  Yup, it’s got a horse on the cover.  Riding plays a big, big part of the story, so if you find horses boring, you might have a problem feeling engaged in the plot.  That wasn’t a problem for me!  I immediately felt comfortable with Melissa, and I agonized with her as she stubbornly refuses to give up her one, true love – horseback riding.  Sounds kind of melodramatic, but Melissa’s fears and hopes rang so true for me.  I would be devastated if I had to give up my horses, so I could sympathize with her right away.

As I’m getting ready for the first horse show of the season (which starts on Wednesday), Melissa’s efforts to prepare her horse Jinx for an important dressage show were instantly relatable.  Melissa has one added challenge; she has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which makes her joints ache and her fingers burn with pain. I personally can’t imagine riding if my hands were that painful, because contrary to popular belief, you don’t just get on a horse and sit there.  You have to ride every stride.  You have to keep the horse between your hands and your seat, and your hands need to be light and responsive, ready to check the horse back with both your hands and your seat.  If your hands aren’t there for you, you won’t be there for your horse.  Melissa stubbornly refuses to ask for help with Jinx, because she wants to prove that she’s just as normal as anyone else, and because she’s fearful that her parents will forbid her from riding. 

As Melissa’s condition worsens, a bright spot does enter her life.  She’s had a crush on William, a friend of her brothers, forever, and when he asks her out, she is over the moon.  As their relationship begins to bloom, though, she is overcome with doubts. How can William like her, or find her attractive, when her hands are such an ugly mess.  She can’t see beyond her illness, and she believes that nobody else can, either. When she takes a bad fall from Jinx, William tries to make her understand how important she is to him by asking her to stop riding, at least until her fingers aren’t as painful.  In a panic, Melissa accuses him of trying to ruin her life, and of not understanding how important Jinx’s success is to her.  Ouch! As if she doesn’t have enough on her mind, now she’s heartbroken because her boyfriend doesn’t understand her.

I enjoyed Riding on Air a lot.  The horse scenes were authentic, and got me excited about going to a show myself.  Melissa’s struggles to overcome all of the challenges thrown her way were compelling, and kept me engaged in the story.  While I would have liked this book just because of the horsey stuff, what made it a fulfilling read is the personal growth Melissa undergoes.  She begins to re-examine her relationships, and realizes that maybe she’s not being fair to her friends and family.  While they want to help her, she thinks their concerns are stifling her.  It’s only after she’s able to let go of her fierce need for independence that she is finally able to ride on air. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Smashed by Lisa Luedeke

 

Title:  Smashed

Author:  Lisa Luedeke

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A field hockey star grapples with addiction in this riveting debut that will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.

     Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.

 


Review:

I am not going to lie.  Parts of Smashed left me angry and frustrated.  It’s a hard book to put down, because Katie’s life is such a train wreck.  While I found it engrossing, I am torn about it.  I wanted to like Katie more than I did, but there are many times throughout the narrative that she is unlikable, and hard to relate to. She is struggling with her father’s rejection of her family, and when Alec is nice to her, she ignores her reservations about him and starts falling for him.  With a distant, distracted mother who is never there for her, she craves what Alec is giving her; attention and kindness.  When he shows a darker side, she is frightened, but when he apologizes for his abusive behavior, she forgives him, and puts herself  at risk again.  Katie doesn’t trust adults, and frankly, who can blame her after taking a long, hard look at her parents, so she instead tries to deal with all of her problems by herself.  She doesn’t even confide in her closest friends that she is in over her head with Alec.   Instead, she decides to deal with him herself, but her way of dealing with him can only have one outcome, and it isn’t a pretty one. 

Alec and his friends are the kings of her school, and they have a reputation for being bullies and getting away with crap.  When their paths start crossing during the summer, Katie starts to think that she’s been wrong about him.  He’s attentive and kind, and he’s there to listen as she vents about her family.  Sure, a couple of things don’t add up, and he gets aggressive about a physical relationship, but Katie convinces herself that she’s sending him the wrong signals.  She just wants to be friends.  But the more she pushes him away, the harder he pushes back, until he has her scared and wary of him.  When a drunk driving accident almost kills them both, Katie has to live the consequences of a very bad decision.  In the months that follow, she puts her dream of playing field hockey in college, a scholarship, and even her life in danger. 

I was so upset with some of the choices that Katie made.  There is pressure on her and her teammates to not get caught partying during the season, or they will be kicked off the team.  Instead of drinking publically, Katie starts drinking at home.  Her mother is never there, so it’s not like anyone is going to know or care.  Her mother is more focused on her job and finding a boyfriend to be there for Katie and her younger brother.   Without positive role models, Katie is struggling to find her place and struggling to deal with the challenges she is facing.  I kept wondering if and when her mother would take a step back from her own life and take an interest in her children’s.  I also felt horribly sad that Katie felt so abandoned and alone.  She feels that she has no one, so she starts drinking to forget all of her problems.

I don’t feel that Alec’s personality was developed enough, and I was disappointed at Alec’s lack of depth. I never felt that I got to know him or understand him. He’s just a one-dimensional jerk whose only purpose in the story is to propel Katie down a path of self-destruction. 

If you enjoy contemporary fiction that deal with social issues, I think you will enjoy Smashed.  It is a compelling and hard to put down read, and even though I didn’t always like Katie, I always sympathized with her.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy obtained from my local library

Cover Shot! Taking Shots by Toni Aleo

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

This is another YUM! cover!  And since we didn’t get much hockey this season, I may as well read about it.  Taking the Shots by Toni Aleo will be available in May.

In Toni Aleo’s exhilarating Loveswept debut, the first in a series featuring the hockey hunks of the Nashville Assassins, a reformed bad boy helps a charming, willful woman face off against the demons of her past.
No matter how hard she tries, Elleanor Fisher never thinks she’s good enough, from her job to her weight to her love life. After enduring years of abuse at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, Elli has been drifting through life in a daze. Until, that is, she meets Shea Adler on a promotional shoot for the NHL’s Nashville Assassins. Before Elli knows what’s happening, the gorgeous Shea breaks the ice and shatters her world.
A brilliant athlete inside the rink, Shea Adler is tired of the life he’s living outside of it: the women, the money, the drinking. But everything changes when he meets Elli. After laying eyes on this feisty, witty, beautiful woman, he feels like he’s just taken the hardest hit of his life. No matter how skeptical she is, Shea knows they are meant to be together—if only he can convince Elli to put her insecurities aside before she misses out on a shot at love.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Trying to Score, Empty Net, and Along Came Trouble.

Review: Playing at Love by Ophelia London

 

 

Title: Playing at Love

Author:  Ophelia London

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Show choir teacher Tess Johansson loves three things: music, her job, and sharing that passion with her students. But when a school budget crisis forces funding to be pulled from either the sports or music programs, she finds herself going head to head with Jack, the gorgeous new football coach who broke her heart fifteen years ago.

Jack Marshall wants two things: to be closer to his young daughter and to make his mark as a football coach. Taking the new job, with the promise that he’d have time to build a solid team, gave him both. But now he must win the season with a group of boys who aren’t anywhere near ready or he’ll lose everything he’s worked so hard for. Being pitted against Tess, the summer love he never forgot, is like being fourth and long with only seconds on the clock.

On opposing sides of a fierce battle and with everything at stake, Tess and Jack find themselves torn between doing what it takes to win and doing what it takes to be together.


Review:

When I saw this new Bliss title, I jumped at the chance to read it.  It has my favorite trope – you guessed it – second chances at love.  I just can’t resist that one, so as I settled into my seat for the flight back from OKC, I started gobbling up this book.  It is a sweet romance, with rapid pacing and fun characters. 

Tess loves her job as the show choir teacher at Franklin High.  She loves mentoring her students and pushing them to be the best they can be.  When her job is threatened due to budget cuts, she is on the defensive.  The only way to save her show choir is to take first place at Regionals, and even then, she has to hope that the new football coach, Jack, meets with failure.  If Jack can’t win 4 out of 6 games with the beleaguered football team, his new position will be going down the toilet.  Their rivalry is fueled by Jack’s betrayal when they were teenagers.  As the entire town starts to choose sides, Jack and Tess must decide what’s most important – winning or  falling in love.

I liked Tess, and felt that I got to know her and what made her tick.  She’s appalled to face a ghost from her past, and infuriated when Jack’s football team threatens the survival of her show choir program.  She loves her job, and she needs a paycheck to help keep her parents’ home out of foreclosure.  When Jack comes waltzing back into her life after breaking her heart all those years ago, Tess doesn’t want to have anything to do with him.  She still hasn’t gotten over his betrayal.  She can’t trust men, and something always drives her away from a serious, steady relationship. 

Jack has always regretted what he did that summer, all those years ago.  Now he has a chance to make up for it, but Tess won’t give him the time of day.  He’s beyond dismayed to learn that his new dream job may go up in smoke, and he can’t believe that his team has to compete with the show choir for survival.  The added conflict to their relationship kept me engaged in the story.  Since one of the programs has to go, I kept wondering how either protagonist would accept defeat.  As the competition began to divide the school, and eventually, the community, both Jack and Tess began to see the damage that was being done as pranks between supporters began to get out of hand.  I enjoyed reading along as they tried to come up with a mutually agreeable solution to the mess they found themselves in.  As their October deadline approached, they each began to question what was really important in their lives.  As they worked through this dilemma, it seemed that their relationship would take one step forward and two back, but I never felt that the pacing suffered, regardless of all of the new road bumps they encountered.

Playing at Love keeps a flirty tone throughout. I didn’t feel that Tess and Jack’s past was explored enough, but the story kept me entertained through a mechanical delay, a late flight crew, and a layover at DFW.  My one nitpick – I felt that it lacked depth, and the ending was wrapped up too quickly, and too conveniently.  Still, there is a good time to be had by all, and I believe that Jack and Tess won’t squander their second chance at a happy ever after.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Shot! One Sweet Ride by Jaci Burton

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

Jaci Burton has some of the yummiest romance covers ever! I love seeing each new addition to the Play-by-Play series.  I really need to make the time to start reading these books!  Are you reading them? Which cover is your favorite?  Do you like the cover for One Sweet Ride?

In stores June 2013.

    

Race car driver Gray Preston enjoys fast cars and an uncomplicated life, until political aide Evelyn Hill enters the picture and complicates the hell out of it with a request that he help out his estranged father’s political campaign. Racing and politics don’t mix, but Gray and Evelyn’s sexual attraction sizzles like asphalt in August.